The best way to succeed is to identify the things you do well and that make you, by your own definition, happy.
The most important words in the above sentence are ‘by your own definition’.
Embracing external definitions of success that don’t really match your MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™), or forcing yourself into a role that everyone except you thinks is right, not only leads to unhappiness, but to broken health and wrecked relationships.
Follow these 4 steps on the path to success.
Find your own definition of ‘happy;
recognize that the definition will change many times throughout your life as you change;
Company culture is a hot topic in the business press; CEOs are working to foster “cultures of innovation;” and culture is being lauded or blamed for a variety of happenings.
The bird’s eye view of what’s important in culture is as varied as the executives, academics, pundits, media and other experts who expound on the subject.
But what about the worm’s eye view—what do plain vanilla employees think and want? It’s important, since without them there is no company.
It used to be when I talked with people that it was easier for them to articulate the attitudes and behaviors they didn’t want to encounter in the workplace.
Even today, with a far more savvy and sophisticated workforce, people still tend to focus first on what they don’t want:
Too much politics: personal, group, or in senior management.
Poor management practices such as erratic management; intimidation; micro-management; belittling or contemptuous treatment; poor scheduling; no loyalty; the attitude that “we don’t have enough time to do it right but we have enough time to do it over;” workaholism; etc.
Any form of harassment, whether overt or covert
A generally negative attitude, i.e., the glass is half empty
Arrogance or an elitist attitude.
An unwillingness (at whatever level) to seek and implement the compromises necessary to meet most of the organization’s needs within the required timeframe.
But when you get them to focus on the positives, the sophisticated and savvier mindset of today’s workforce is even more obvious when discussing the factors they desire.
Here are some of the high points that people say they want for themselves and from their managers and company:
The opportunity to truly “make a difference.”
To be treated fairly.
To trust the management and be trusted by them.
To embrace the idea that work can and should be fun.
Accurate prioritizing of company, team, and individual goals while keeping them synergistic.
A positive “can-do” attitude (aggressive, but realistic—the glass is half-full).
Continuing development and quality improvement in people, products and services, and processes.
Committing to employees, customers, and investors—and meeting those commitments.
An open, accurate, company-wide flow of information starting from the top.
An environment that encourages people to reach their full potential, professionally and personally.
A conscious effort to stamp out “not invented here” syndrome (in all its varied forms) so as to not waste time reinventing the wheel.
There’s great value in this worm’s eye view. By eliminating what employees don’t like, and giving them what they want, you create a foundation on which to build the kind of innovative, profitable culture—the kind craved by investors, customers, and the rest of the outside world.
“Instead of shelling out big bucks for lavish trade shows and TV and magazine ads, Amazon pours money into technology for its Web site, distribution capability, and good deals on shipping. … “It is pretty unprecedented that their brand has ascended so quickly without a large marketing budget,” says Hayes Roth, chief marketing officer at brand consultant Landor Associates. “It’s not about splaying their logo everywhere. They are all about ease of use.”
Amazon has done well in the recession for the very reasons that Wall Street lambasted them after the dot com bubble burst.
Wall Street wanted short-term profits, while Bezos focused on the long-term.
When I was looking for yesterday’s quotes, I also found these two and they say it all.
“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.”
There are two kinds of companies, those that work to try to charge more and those that work to charge less. We will be the second.”
It takes enormous strength of character to stay focused on the future when investors are pounding on you to focus on immediate returns.
Too many CEOs sell their company’s future by focusing on keeping investors, analysts and the media happy in the short-term.
Culture is finally at the forefront of the corporate mindset.
For Boards, CEOs, executives and managers at all levels it’s a case of ignore culture at your peril.
Almost every article and comment regarding the workplace is, directly or indirectly, a comment on culture—what works, or not; what’s needed, or not. Want to innovate? Change the culture. Increase retention? Fix/keep the culture.
Keeping people (customers, employees and investors) is the key to sustainable success and culture is one of the main reasons that people join/buy/invest in a company—and its demise is a major reason why they leave.
Think of a stool with customers, investors/stockholders, and employees comprising the legs and culture being the seat that unites them. Over-favor one leg and it will get too long, ignore another leg and it will shrink, but the end result is the same—the stool tips over.
For everything that’s been written here and other places about creating good, let alone great, cultures you still need to start with the basics:
Practice open, honest, constant communications and insist that others do, too
Never kill the messenger
Accept and act on input from all levels
Walk your talk
Sure, there’s tons more you can do, but I guarantee that if you do only these four you’ll be well on your way to creating a positive, sustainable culture.
I want to share three comments from Jeff Bezos today, because tomorrow’s post is about him.
They all focus on the financial side and point up the great difference between Bezos and many other CEOs when it comes to money and stock.
If Bezos is anything he is pragmatic and real—no BS. And that is just as true when he is talking about entrepreneurial topics as about his business.
The truth in this comment has only increased over the years and will continue into the future. “Good ideas will always get funded, so that’s not going to be a problem. But you will see that it will be harder and harder for bad ideas to get funded.”
“It’s part of the territory with Internet stocks, that kind of volatility. It can be up 30 percent one month, it can be down 30 percent in a month, and a minute spent thinking about the short-term stock price is a minute wasted.” Obviously, Bezos never wasted any minutes on the subject.
If you’ve followed Amazon at all, you know that every time Bezos invested in better technology or added product lines Wall Street predicted its imminent demise. Even today, after a decade of success, the analysts question Amazon’s every move.
Bezos takes it in stride, still focusing on the long term and customer satisfaction, as he has all along.
“No. I’ve taken plenty of criticism, but it’s always been about our stock price and never about our customer experience. After the bubble burst, I would sit down with our harshest critics, and at the end of the meeting they would say, “I’m a huge customer.” You know that when your harshest critics are among your best customers, you can’t be doing that badly.”
Join me tomorrow for a look at Bezos’ approach to nonmarkteing.
I have some great links to add to those I gave you last Saturday.
Another article from McKinsey shines a spotlight on managers’ need to “master the disciplines of uncertainty,” because it isn’t going away any time soon.
The market may have torpedoed you and me, but it’s done far less damage to the corner office. “Compensation for top executives at many of the nation’s largest publicly traded firms was essentially unchanged last year, even as the stock market plummeted.” Why are we not surprised?
What has changed? An article in the WSJ Online tells us that COO positions are going the way of the dodo bird because CEOs want to be closer to the action and more involved in day-to-day operations. But Jay Galbraith says, “One unspoken reason COOs’ numbers may be falling may be simple fear. As the pressure on CEOs heats up, at least a few simply don’t want such an obvious successor in place.” Again, why are we not surprised?
Economics is one of the few business area that make my eyes glaze over; not from boredom, but from an inability to understand it—believe me I’ve tried. Last week I said that How Did Economists Get It So Wrong? is a must read to understanding what happened to the global economy. For those who wish to dig deeper, two new books on the oft-maligned John Maynard Keynes were reviewed in Business Week (they do understand economics:). “John Maynard Keynes ought to be named Man of the Year. Governments around the world have successfully, if messily, resurrected many of his insights from the 1930s to thwart economic collapse. Foremost is his idea that easy money and government spending can rescue an economy in free fall—with credit frozen, businesses panicked, and consumers paralyzed.” I’m sure this won’t be popular with the free market crowd.